What’s in a day? How SEO retainer time can bring more value to your clients

Published on 9 March 2020, updated on 8 November 2022

When thinking about how to make the most of the SEO retainer time for a specific client, it’s usually a fine balance between delivering the promise made to the client (current status versus proposal / forecast) and identifying opportunities to increase the value of that account.

Of course, there are hundreds of things that contribute to an increase in the client’s visibility, so the challenge you have is to select exactly the ones that have the biggest impact, while taking into account the time limit and the client’s industry changes. 

So, how can you be strategic about it?

As the industry is built on hourly fees, you have a limited time to cater to a specific client in a month. Also, being in an SEO agency usually means taking care of at least 3-5 major clients with tens of ongoing campaigns. It can quickly get overwhelming.  

Let’s say you’re just starting your day at the office. You get a coffee and start looking at your agenda to see which clients you need to address today and which meetings are mandatory.

Then, you probably scan the status of running campaigns and think about how to efficiently use your retainer time to obtain the agreed SEO results. You know that today is the day for managing that big bookstore client and you need to make sure everything is going according to plan. You see a new email from your account manager. This client is eager to know how some of her specific keywords are performing and, also, wants you to look into a new business objective for the next time frame.

As you double-check her SEO campaign status, you realize you need to do supplementary keyword research to calibrate the existing data and include the new stated objective. You should have a quick meeting with the account manager as well, to understand the specifics of that requirement and to talk about the next report.

Priority changes are part and parcel of agency life, as client management becomes more complex and volumes increase, so we propose to get back to basics and think about what you can do in terms of keyword strategies and portfolio management that can support you in maximizing outputs with a repeatable workflow. 

Identify areas of focus from both SEO & business perspective

When reviewing the status of an SEO campaign, what are you really looking at?

Think about current keywords and their performance, visibility trends, but also those unknowns you need to discover: for instance, new keyword opportunities or technical challenges you should be able to solve before they reach the client.

After all, what clients appreciate is that their agency has the proper picture of their data, and is able to connect each SEO action with their business strategy and results.

Keyword management implies, from the start, an ongoing process in which you need to be both technical and creative, as you create a clearer picture of your client’s industry. It’s a balancing act between search volumes and potential for business outcomes, so as to focus on the keywords that matter.

Furthermore, in order to understand what’s really going on with a campaign, you need to constantly check what the visibility trend is and how it impacts the client’s conversions. That’s why you should get granular when looking at keywords, as a first solution. Think about organizing them into groups that represent topics or categories (products or services) which are important in your strategy. Or maybe group them in correlation with your client’s marketing funnel. 

Then, look at how your defined keyword groups are impacting the client’s visibility trend. Which group performs better? Which group needs adjustments? Are there negative or, maybe, positive trends due to changes made by your client or is it an algorithm update?

You can think about keywords filtering as well.  Be efficient in your grouping by choosing ranking, for instance, and define groups that are ranking on the first page or on the second page, or maybe filter them by landing page or even conversion rate. SEOmonitor’s smart groups help you get a more detailed picture of your keyword portfolio with advanced filters, so you can adjust the strategy accordingly. 

Just as important, you should look at the keywords that don’t provide value (ex. 99+ ranks) and seem to waste your SEO efforts, and remove them. 

Coming back to our online bookstore client example, let’s say she wants you to focus on a specific market or a specific type of product line. If, for instance, you discover the children books landing page can be optimized, you can think about a smart group including keywords like “popular children literature”, “illustrated children books”, “new children books” and so on, while removing informational keywords surrounding the topic.  You can do this for various types of products that the client included in her business strategy, getting granular with your grouping, while taking into account popular searches around “buy kids books” or “children books price” and other transactional keywords, just to continue with our example.

Deep dive into keyword opportunities

Filtering the keywords that matter can also give you hints about SEO opportunities you can tackle. After all, being proactive with your client shows her you truly care about her business objectives and you do understand the intricacies.

Here’s another example: your client is happy as she is constantly ranking for “new young adult titles” and there’s major business interest there. But you realize there’s an opportunity to rank just as well for “new fantasy titles”. You can have a meeting with the account manager and make a recommendation in that regard. 

Also, as you’ve done your topics research, you realize the US market is highly interested in scifi and fantasy books, but they actually use in their searches keywords like “titles”, “releases”, “new books published”, which you need to further consider for on-site optimization.

So, constantly keeping in mind the question “Anything else that we’re not looking at?”, you can go even more granular and create keyword groups and subsets for SEO opportunities, based on keyword difficulty and estimated additional traffic. 

Don’t forget about competition insights, as the findings can inform your additional keyword groups to tackle and the opportunities to jump at, to improve SEO results. For example, if your bookstore client’s competitors rank on key subtopics in top 10 results for “Japanese new literature”, you can think about including information about best contemporary Japanese authors, about bestsellers, literary prizes and recommendations etc., as part of your landing page optimization and content strategy.

Adjust your SEO strategy further:

Craft the implementation plan and communicate it across your team 

A big part of an SEO specialist’s work, also, translates into two important aspects: strategy and communication within the agency team.

If we take our bookstore client and her new business objective for you to look into (optimize for horror releases searches, for instance), that means you need to properly understand how that objective relates with the current SEO strategy, what adjustments need to be made, do the research, make the recommendations and, then, work with the team to represent the metrics accurately when informing the client.

That involves a lot of communication from your part, so you should consider what story you want to tell with your data so that you connect SEO actions with business results.

Once more, here the granularity of your keyword groups can support you, as you define a focused strategy that will inform and measure the execution.

Also, it helps to periodically save and share small wins, apart from your monthly reporting, to keep your client in the loop and highlight your SEO efforts. This constant client communication shows you care and understand what matters for her business.

For your client, that means maybe a quick share with the data showing when 20 new keywords pertaining to horror books achieved best ranks, before your monthly reporting comes up. Our Signals cards help you do that. Signals finds the best insights of the day for you, so you can highlight small, but important SEO results, in real time, for your client (via email). 

Prove the value of your actions through reporting

Results talk best, although proving how SEO performance ties into business outcomes can be somewhat difficult. Apart from what we mentioned before (visibility trends, small wins etc.), the time for monthly reporting is your time to shine.

Again, coordinating with your team, you need to present SEO performance, issues and opportunities with clear data sets and explanations, so that the client truly gets what you’ve been doing.

Show the SEO results in context, explain the difference between seasonality and what your campaign brought, highlight the non-brand organic traffic improvements and tie them to conversions. 

Then, don’t forget to talk about issues, explain the SEO timeline in conversational terms and make sure that the information is properly understood by your client so that your team’s recommendations are followed: creating new landing pages, fixing obsolete ones etc. SEOmonitor’s annotations feature may come in handy at this moment, as it automatically creates annotations with algorithm changes, keywords added/deleted etc., or you can create your custom ones, so you know what was going on there.


The way you go about your keyword management can improve the flow of your daily agency life. In order to be more efficient, you need to think about details from the start:

  • Look at visibility trends and select the keywords that matter (perform and are more connected to your client’s business), while getting rid of the keywords that scatter your SEO efforts.
  • Organize your keywords into granular groups which will inform and measure your SEO execution.
  • Deep dive into keyword opportunities and be granular about these groups, as well.
  • Constantly adjust your implementation plan based on keyword performance and coordinate with your team.
  • Help your account manager in client communication by providing the real story behind your granular data. Prove the value of your SEO efforts.

Bonus: You can re-engage your silent clients with SEO opportunities – do a little digging and show them a particular keyword group you can engage with a new landing page, and how that will look for them in terms of traffic and business goals. Being proactive goes a long way.